The North’s Executive is committed to delivering a “compelling” bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the First Minister has said.
Despite ongoing difficulties around the redevelopment of Casement Park – a proposed venue for the event – Stormont ministers have reaffirmed their desire to see Ireland host the sporting spectacle.
Arlene Foster said: “The Northern Ireland Executive is fully committed to providing all the necessary support required by the bid team to ensure the delivery of a compelling, world class bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.”
The comments were made as members of the bid’s oversight board, including former Tánaiste Dick Spring and Irish rugby international Brian O’Driscoll – one of the world’s most capped international players – visited Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium, another proposed venue for some fixtures.
Also at the meeting was Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who said everyone must “go the extra mile” to secure success.
“A Rugby World Cup in Ireland would prove to be a hugely attractive destination for rugby supporters from throughout the world and we would relish the opportunity to welcome them to one of the world’s major sports gatherings, the Rugby World Cup, in 2023,” he said.
“I am confident, with the co-operation already in evidence between both Governments, sporting bodies and the general public, Ireland would deliver a hugely successful tournament for World Rugby.”
Last week the North’s Assembly was told that delays around work at Casement Park were creating a bad impression for bid organisers.
Plans have been effectively stalled since the High Court overturned a decision to approve a 38,000-capacity stadium in 2014.
The judge found that Environment Minister Mark H Durkan acted unlawfully in granting permission a year earlier following a legal challenge by residents living close to the stadium.
However, Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has repeatedly insisted that a new stadium will be built.
She said: “A redeveloped Casement Park is a Programme for Government commitment and integral to the bid for 2023.
“I remain committed to ensuring that we deliver on that commitment and I am confident we will do so.”